Have you ever seen that Seinfeld where Jerry dates a very attractive woman that Newman had dumped? Jerry likes everything about her, but he just can't get over the fact that she went out with Newman. Finally, he dumps her because of it.
A Wall Street Journal article today about NASCAR's attempt to market to minorities got me thinking about that episode. Now I know NASCAR fans probably come from all walks of life, but from what I have read, it seems that the fan base isn't as diverse as the fan base of some other sports. One thing mentioned in the WSJ article was the problem of attracting some minorities because of the behavior of the current fans. It mentioned that many potential minority fans are turned off by, for instance, the display of the Confederate flag on many vehicles in the parking lots of NASCAR races. That made me wonder if, just like Jerry rejected a perfectly fine girlfriend based on one past association she had, might people reject NASCAR just because of a small core of fans they don't like? And on an even larger scale, how do you market to customers that don't like your existing customers?
There is a ton of talk about branding in the business blogosphere these days, and one of the major ideas is that you don't define a brand, your customers define it for you. But what happens when the way they define it causes problems for expansion or future business?
I know people who won't buy Nikes because of all the bad publicity they have received over the sweat shops. I know people who won't buy certain albums or watch certain movies if the money will go to someone they don't agree with politically. Is the next step not to by a product because "those people" use it? In a world where corporate ideologies are being factored more and more into consumer buying decisions, how do you define your corporate ideologies? You can't be all things to all people. You can try to be bland, which may result in ambivalent customers. But if you stake out where you stand, do you risk cutting out a large part of your target market?
Maybe it won't get that bad. Maybe the people who scrutinize all that stuff so much in their decision making will remain a small minority. I think the success or failure of the NASCAR campaign will provide some answers.